Ligue 1 Show

Champagne football: Reims' Still in sparkling form

Champagne football: Reims' Still in sparkling form

Ligue 1 Show
Publish on 03/30 at 12:41


Reims boss Will Still barely needs an introduction anymore, and that alone is testament to the job the 30-year-old coach is doing with Stade de Reims!

The six-time Champions of France regularly set records back in the middle of the 20th century, but even by those exceptionally high standards, 20 consecutive league games without defeat is unheard of!

That was what Still's side were out to achieve when they welcomed Marseille to the Stade Auguste Delaune a fortnight ago!


"It's true that what is happening with Will Still is quite unique. We've not seen much like it!" enthused journalist Alexandre Audabram. "Of course there were the David Guion years in which he took the team back to Ligue 1 by beating all the Ligue 2 records… but what Will Still is doing here has never been seen before, in the way he manages and coaches his team."

Indeed, the man who famously cut his teeth on the Football Manager computer game has continued his unconventional ways in the Reims dugout, always finding ways to keep his side focused and mentally prepared for the challenges that await.

"Last week in training, he ran a very strange session, that didn't resemble a training session, and the players wondered what was going on," continued Audabram. "At the end he said he had done it deliberately to take them out of their comfort zone. They didn't understand what was happening and were wondering if I hadn't lost the plot, you were destabilised! Imagine that happens during a game, you need to know how to react when unexpected things happen!"


So why is it that the Reims players follow Still and his methods so faithfully? Audabram has a theory.

"The fact that he is roughly the same age as his players means he shares a lot with them!" continued the France bleu journalist. "That is something that is often missing with older coaches. He listens to the same music, has the same conversations with his mates after training, and that can only help! That's a good example of his methods, even if he doesn't like to admit there is a Will Still way!"

The Challenge

Would the Will Still method work against a Marseille team looking for an eighth consecutive away win?!

"He's young but he already has experience; he has been in football for a long period already. He's doing good things!" said OM boss Igor Tudor when quizzed on his Reims counterpart. "And also the scouting to bring these players, because they have plenty fantastic players in the team!"

Still's fantastic players even took the lead inside the opening quarter of an hour, Folarin Balogun netting his 17th goal of the season - his seventh against a team currently in the top five of the table!

"We're making the most of our time with him," enthused midfielder Marshall Munetsi. "He's a young coach at 30, so we can communicate easily. He's nice with everyone, he works well with everyone. We've been given specific training sessions to improve. He's a coach who really loves football."

Uncharacteristically, Reims then conceded twice before half-time, Alexis Sanchez becoming the first man to score twice against Still's men! All the best chances that followed fell Reims' way, with the woodwork denying Balogun a dramatic 93rd-minute equaliser!

Still: 'Incredibly proud!'

Despite their very best efforts, it finished 2-1 to Marseille: a first league defeat for Still and his men…

"Away from the game I think we have to focus on what we've achieved," said the Anglo-Belgian man of the hour. "Not many teams would be able to go so long without losing a game. I'm just incredibly proud! We'll take the positives and we'll keep moving forward, as of next week."

Ninth in the standings, six points away from the top six. European football is going to be a big ask, but given the Champagne club sat 15th with just eight points to their name before putting Still in charge, there is every reason for them to believe they can continue to surprise and upset!

"I don't think there are any limits, I don't think we have to set ourselves any limits!" declared Still. "We just focus on what we did wrong tonight and try to get those few points sorted and right then we can look forward and try to win a few more games before the end of the season!"

Onward, upward!

The next challenge for Still and his merry band comes when they travel top FC Nantes' Stade de la Beaujoire for their Round 29 Ligue 1 Uber Eats clash at 15:00 on Sunday.

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